Algeria jails 2 Bouteflika-era premiers ahead of polls

A man reads a newspaper headlining on the trial of two former Algerian prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal in Algiers

The electoral campaign was marked by empty halls and angry protests at the candidates and the front runners, Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Ali Benflis, have both previously served as Prime Ministers.

Ouyahia was sentenced to 15 years in prison and $16,000 in fines.

Many Algerians, especially the military, worry that there could be a repeat of the chaos and violence of the 1990s, following an aborted presidential election won by Islamist Abbassi Madani.

Former Industry Ministers Youcef Yousfi and Mahdjoub Bedda were also sentenced to 10 years in prison each, while former Transportation Minister Abdelghani Zaalane was acquitted of corruption charges.

An Algerian court jailed two former prime ministers for corruption on Tuesday, two days before a presidential election that protesters want cancelled.

The two men denied all charges, including "misappropriation of public funds, abuse of power and granting undue privileges". One former industry minister, Abdeslam Bouchouareb, who is on the run overseas, was sentenced in absentia to 20 years. And three businessmen who own vehicle assembly plants - Ahmed Mazouz, Hassen Arbaoui and Mohamed Bairi - were sentenced to seven years, six years and three years respectively.

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Doss said the stand-down is an effort to ensure the safety of the students, as they recover from the trauma of the shooting. The permission is usually good for at least 90 days, and must be routinely reviewed in order to be renewed.

The court also issued a 20-year prison sentence in absentia to former industry minister Abdesslam Bouchouareb, who is overseas. Defence lawyers boycotted the trial, alleging the proceedings were "politicised" and impacted by a climate of "settling scores". Protesters want a whole new political system instead.

Dr. Paul Sullivan, a professor at the U.S. National Defense University, tells VOA that he thinks the sentences are meant to "give (Algerians) the impression of the rule of that their votes may be less radical".

The military high command, which has long wielded power from behind the scenes, was forced to take a front-line role in government - but rejected the demands of protesters and civil society for sweeping reforms.

While no opinion polls have been published ahead of Thursday's vote, observers expect high levels of abstention, in keeping with previous elections in a political system seen by voters as rigid and unaccountable.

The army has said the vote will be fair and an election is the only way to get out of the crisis. Bouteflika had been expected to run for a fifth term that same month, before elections were postponed due to widespread popular protests.

They claim casting ballots only serves to perpetuate the opaque and corrupt "regime" that has survived the death of the former head of state.

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